What are the Requirements for a Divorce in Arizona?
I often tell my new clients that one of the unfortunate aspects of practicing family law is that I get to meet a lot of really wonderful people in some of the worst and darkest times of their lives. After all, people do not generally get married with the idea they will later divorce. For most of us, our wedding day ranks up there with the greatest days of our lives. It is the day we commit to the person we love to honor and cherish them forever. Unfortunately, for many people, the happily ever after fairy tale does not have the happy ending hoped for on their wedding day. Love and hope is often replaced by anger and uncertainty. Many people find themselves afraid of the future and not knowing what to expect when their marriage becomes unraveled.
And so it is with this setting that so many people come to my office seeking advice about divorce. Many people are seeking reassurance and an understanding of what to expect while dealing with the inevitable pain that divorce brings. For others, the divorce cannot come soon enough. Some choose to pursue the divorce and others have no choice because their spouse is seeking the divorce. Regardless of the individual circumstances, the question I am always asked is “how do I get a divorce in Arizona? Or, “where do I begin to get a divorce?”
To start with, it is important to understand that before an Arizona family court can grant a divorce, the court must be sure that it has the authority, or jurisdiction to grant a divorce. Thus, under Arizona law, there are a few jurisdictional requirements that must be met before the Court can ultimately grant a divorce. The very first step, however, is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is your ticket into family court and advises the court as to your position on the vital issues in the divorce case such as: division of property and debts, child related issues such as legal decision-making, parenting time and child support and your position on spousal maintenance or alimony.
The Petition for Dissolution also includes a jurisdictional statement that informs the court that you qualify for a divorce in Arizona. These jurisdictional requirements (or legal requirements) for a divorce in Arizona can be found in A.R.S. §25-311 and include the following:
a.At least one party (husband or wife), at the time the divorce was filed was domiciled in the State of Arizona, or was stationed in the State of Arizona while a member of the armed services, for at least 90 days prior to the date the Petition for Dissolution was filed.
This means that at least one party to the divorce has to have lived in the State of Arizona for at least 90 days prior to the date the Petition for Dissolution is filed. It is not uncommon for potential clients to call me from other states and ask if they can file for divorce in Arizona. The answer is yes, if your spouse that you are seeking divorce from has been living in Arizona for at least the past 90 days. Another common scenario I often see is a party who has recently moved to Arizona. If you move to Arizona and your spouse does not already live here, you cannot file for divorce in Arizona until you have lived here at least 90 days.
b.The party filing the Petition for Dissolution must affirm that the conciliation provisions of A.R.S. §25-381.09 either do not apply or have been met.
The State of Arizona supports marriage and discourages divorce. The State deems it good for society and for the State for couples who get married to stay married if at all possible. As such, the State offers services for couples who are contemplating divorce to try to save their marriage and avoid divorce altogether. These are not mandatory services. Many people who come to my office seeking a divorce have already tried private counseling to try to save their marriage. Conciliation Services is simply another option to try to save your marriage. For purposes of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage; the person filing the Petition must state in the Petition that he or she either has participated in Conciliation Services or that he or she does not think such services will help save the marriage.
c.The party filing the Petition must avow to the Court that he or she believes the marriage is irretrievably broken, or if it is a covenant marriage that the requirements of A.R.S. §25-903 have been met.
Arizona is a no-fault state. This means that Arizona family courts do not care what your reason is for seeking a divorce. A party seeking a divorce in Arizona must simply state that he or she feels the marriage is irretrievably broken (permanently broken) and cannot be saved. That’s it. The provision about a covenant marriage does not apply to the vast majority of people. A large majority of married couples in Arizona do not have a covenant marriage. Covenant marriages will be addressed in more detail in a later blog.
In addition to the above jurisdictional requirements, the Petition must also contain the following information:
a.The birth date, occupation, social security number if a duty of support exists or may exist, and an address for each party and the length of domicile in the State of Arizona for each party;
b.The date and place of marriage and whether the marriage is a covenant marriage;
c.The names, birth dates, social security numbers and addresses of all living children, natural or adopted, common to the parties and whether the wife is pregnant;
d.The details of any agreements between the parties as to child support, custody and parenting time of the children and maintenance of the spouse (alimony);
e.The relief sought. This simply means that the party filing the divorce must tell the court how he or she wants the court to rule on the issues that exist in the case.
A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona must be verified. That is to say that the person filing the Petition must state that he or she has read the Petition for Dissolution and that everything stated in the Petition is true and accurate to the best of that person’s knowledge. The verification (signature of the party) is typically notarized, thus, the Petition is filed under oath by the party filing the Petition.
The Petition for Dissolution is really the first step in any Arizona divorce. It must be complete and thorough enough for the Court to review it and be assured that all jurisdictional and other legal requirements have been met as outlined above. It also must be clear and thorough enough that the other party can read it and know what you are asking the Court to do, even if he or she does not agree with your position on the issues.
Divorce is not pleasant and the truth is that the legal aspects of divorce can be difficult and confusing and only add further to your stress. Every case is different in terms of the issues and complexity of the case. What is not different is the starting point. It can be vital to your case to properly prepare and plead your divorce case. Divorce is stressful enough. I always recommend at least consulting with an attorney before filing for divorce to make sure you understand all of the issues that will need to be addressed and to assure that your divorce pleadings (legal paperwork) is prepared and filed correctly with the Court.